Distance cycled: 13,381kms
|We arrive in Thailand|
|Save money on plane fares and hotels - make Tom Yam at home|
|It's quite common to see kids of around 8-10 riding scooters here|
|It's amazing what you can fit on the back of a yute|
We found a funny wee guesthouse that night where the elderly couple running it spoke just about no english. They showed us into a room that didn't look or smell like it had been occupied in a while but after 110 kms we weren't fussed. The cost: 300 baht. We bought a few beers from them and tried to get some food. There was no shops around but a guy ran us down to a stall selling greasy thai pancakes, the only hot food that seemed to be available. The couple running the guesthouse found it hilarious that the 4 of us wanted to share a room and are probably still talking about it now
|Better learn how to say something - quick!|
|Pak Meng beach|
|Little George who disappeared the following day|
|We loved you George, even if no-one else did|
|At Pak Meng, this dog ran up to Ben as if he was his long lost master. It was very touching|
|Stevie and Lucy clocked up more than 1000kms|
|Only joking. It was empty in the first place. We poured the contents into a plastic bottle not Stevie's mouth|
|Ben and Stevie drafted these guys for a few kms, much to their amusement|
|A shrine, not too sure what the hundreds of zebras signify but why not eh?|
|11am? Time for a thai whisky|
|Or maybe not|
|Tropical gardens - not bad for 6 quid|
|The beach by night|
|Also very nice|
|Happy days - Maya beach. Recognise the background?|
As we sat in a cafe on our second last day on the island, a young woman came up and asked if she could join us as she didn't like eating alone. We had lunch together and invited her up to the hotel later. I admired her direct approach as a way of meeting new people. It's a shame most of us are too shy to meet new people this way. We struck up a great friendship with Meg and spent the rest of our time on the island with her.
|Meg and Mog|
On Phi Phi there seemed to be very few dogs but plenty well fed, well looked after, friendly cats. It was so nice to see animals in this condition and made the island a much nicer place to be. We have noticed a lot of callousness towards animals here in Thailand and in general, animals cower away from humans in fear. Not good. In Malaysia, the treatment of animals seemed far better and we noticed lots of people feeding and being kind to animals.
|A cat in the fridge at Papaya restaurant. Apparently, he loves it in there. We opened the door to see if he wanted out but he was happy "chillin" in the fridge|
|Stevie gives the friendly owner of Papaya restaurant a taste of his dinner. Yes, very nice|
|Enjoyed the Tom Yam? Here's a recipe for Thai green curry|
It's worth mentioning also that Phi Phi island was one of the worst-hit places in the tsunami. The area of main development is simply a huge sandbar which joins two separate islands. It was totally exposed to the full force of the wave and as it happened in the middle of the afternoon, the number of deaths and devastation it caused was horrendous. The island has got itself firmly back on it's feet though and locals tend not to talk about it too much. However, people are all too aware though that it could happen again and tsunami evacuation routes are signposted throughout the island.
|Picture taken shortly after tsunami|
|Same view as above. Chilling to think that from this viewpoint we climbed up to, tourists would have watched the tsunami coming in|
|Hopefully next time everyone will be prepared for it|
Our break on Phi Phi was amazing. On a trip like this, we need to dip in and out of the touristy spots as we spend so much time in little towns being the only fa – rangs. Places like this are expensive though. We arrived back in Krabi thankful that the price of food and accomodation was back to normal.
|Our neighbours at tropical gardens|
Just as we were getting off the boat, I noticed one of the luggage guys picking up a familiar looking object. It was Lucy's bag containing her charger. Her pannier had burst open, spilling most of its contents into the sea. Her and Stevie gathered their sodden belongings together and assessed the damage: a waterlogged ipod, charger, diary and memory sticks containing photos. It took an hour of heated but very diplomatic persuasion on Lucy's part and a visit to the police station to get a signed statement for the insurance company to say that the items had indeed fallen in the sea. The women in the office were terrified to sign anything incase they were held accountable in court. This seems to be a common worry in Thailand where, like in Britain, people have the mercinary attitude of “where there's blame, there's a claim”.In Thailand, you'll get nowhere if you lose your temper. Thai people respond well to smiling so it's important to keep a grin on your chops no matter how pissed off you are. Losing your temper in public is considered insulting to both parties and anyone else within earshot.
So the 4 of us sat outside Krabi police station eating as Lucy called it, some “goodbye muesli” as when this last supper had ended, team Roti Canai would be no more. Lucy and Stevie were heading back to KL and then off on their own fantastic adventure to Nepal and India and we were cycling back to Scotland. We had grown so close in our 5 weeks together and the time we spent with them was memorable beyond words. After their trip, they would be moving back to NZ so we knew we wouldn't see them in a long time. Tears were shed and kind words spoken as we waved them goodbye and then, it was just the 2 of us again.
We cycled into Krabi town to look for a hotel and as is usually the way in life, when one door closes, another one opens. We met Matthias moments after leaving Stevie and Lucy. He explained he had cycled from Germany and was on his way to NZ! Without further ado, we booked into the same guesthouse as him. I must mention Smile guesthouse in Krabi as it is an exceptional place. As soon as we walked in, we noticed the place felt very zen: a peaceful, clean, homely place to be. We asked for the cheapest room available. When we were told the price was 150 baht(3 pounds), we wondered what we'd get for our money.However, the room was just beautiful: freshly laundered sheets, a super-comfortable mattress, spotlessly clean bathroom and a roof terrace for socialising.We also got free internet access and free tea and coffee for our 3 quid. It had to be the bargain of the century. The people who run Smile guesthouse are just wonderful and it's the best hotel we've stayed in so far. Go there. 13 Kongka Rd, Paknam District, Moung, Krabi. Tel: 075 624015/081 8949137(www.smile-guesthouse.com).
|Our room at Smile guesthouse|
We went out for dinner with Matthias that night to the local night market. As we enjoyed our delicious food, we swapped stories and information. It was pretty amazing: Matthias had taken more or less exactly our planned route from Europe and we had just taken the route from NZ that he would be following over the next year. Matthias is a great guy and his good company and the fantastic guesthouse convinced us we should spend another night there. We ate out together the next night at an even better food market where we sampled amazing local food. Before we parted company we swapped a list of contacts and cheap accomodation for our different routes. Amazingly, Matthias has a guitar strapped to the back of his bike and, as a talented musician, makes money through busking when he is in more affluent countries. I admire anyone who does a trip like this on their own, it's hard sometimes with two. Best of luck Matthias.
|And his steed|
The next day we cycled out of town with Matthias and said our goodbyes as he cycled off down the road we had been on only a week before. We managed to clock up 115 kms which was, as it turned out, a bad idea. After a week off the bikes, we should have eased ourselves into the cycling with a 60 or 70 km ride. However, we were keen to get to Bangkok before the 31st to see our friend Nung. By the end of the ride that night we had both strained our knees. We arrived in a little town called Phanom. Nothing much was doing there but we managed to find a room for 250 baht. The proprietors spoke no English but we got by with our smattering of thai. I've been studying every night since Lucy and Stevie left and making good progress. I had got pretty lazy with it having spent so much time on Phi Phi where everyone speaks English. That night, in that lonely little town, we both got a serious bout of homesickness and felt a million miles away from anything or anyone familiar.
|Further down the road we did indeed see a restaurant called "Cabbages and Condoms'|
|Thailand - the dogs bollocks|
Next morning at 6.45 am there was a knock at the door. As we were both half asleep we ignored it. Then half an hour later, another knock. This time I got up and the guy who'd shown us in the night before started talking to me in thai. I had no idea what he wanted but soon ascertained that he was telling us to go. I was outraged. What sort of hotel has a check-out time of 6.45 am? I grabbed my phrasebook and managed to tell him it was too early. I've no idea what his reply was but in the end I closed the door and went back to sleep. Then at 8.15 he came again. This time we got up but took an hour to leave. The guy had a serious attitude problem and I doubt he would have treated Thai guests in such a manner.
|A very sad sight of a cow with a tether so short she couldn't move her head|
|I thought I could eat hot food till I came here|
|Our scabby wee room in Surithani|
The next day we cycled to Surithani by which point we had crossed from the West to the east coast. All 4 of our knees were aching and Ben did his last few kms with one leg. We are pleased to say the Thais give the Malaysians a run for their money when it comes to being good supporters and we still receive cheers, thumbs up and beeps of the horn at regular intervals. We booked into a cheap dive of a hotel and despite needing to rest our knees, set off the next day in search of more desireable lodgings. We noticed that Matthias had given us the name of a hotel he had stayed in in Chaiya, 50 kms up the road so we decided to head for there. We got a 150 baht room at the Udon Lap hotel. It was a much better than the last place and after checking-in, the owners just left us to get on with it. We seemed to be the only guests in this ramshackle old building and decided to stay 2 nights to rest our weary legs.
On this occasion, I found it hard walking around this little town. I felt so out of place. It was a nice little town with nice people but sees no tourists whatsoever so people couldn't figure out why we there..We ate a quick bowl of delicious Tom Yam soup and headed back to the hotel where we could relax. We actually had a great laugh together in our shabby little room. Ben cut my hair and made a damn good job of it and we relaxed, did shiatsu and learned thai. When times are hard, we always have each other.
|We found a tiny kitten sitting in the middle of the road so carried him to the next monastery and left him with the other cats|
|Never mind more schools and hospitals, what every town needs is one of these|
Next day, halfway through our ride to Langsung, Ben's knee started playing up. We had hoped to get to Chumphon 150 kms away but it wasn't to be. It was a great ride up there on a quiet flat road. Arriving in Langsung, we pulled into a restaurant for some khaw-phad(fried rice) and a coke. As we ate, the heavens opened as they do on a daily basis here and we watched as the surrounding area started to look like the set of Waterworld with Kevin Costner. A lady led us on her scooter to a nearby hotel where we had a double bed each and free wi-fi. Langsung was an easier town to be in than Chaiya as the residents seemed far more unphased by unexpected visitors.
|Our room in Langsung|
Ben's knee had become a real problem. As we set off to Chumphon the next day, the pain got worse and worse until towards the end of the ride, he was cycling with one leg. However, we made it and booked ourselves into the Farang bar when we arrived. Chumphon would be just a normal little thai town with no tourists if it wasn't for the daily ferries which go from there to the popular island of Ko Tao. Consequently, it has become a stopping off point for those waiting on a boat but really has nothing to offer in the way of tourism. The Farang Bar is the only place tourists congregate in Chumphon but it is pretty much a soulless place. However, it was cheap and had free wi-fi so we checked into a dungeon-like room which opened directly onto the noisy bar.
|A bit under the weather|
The next morning I awoke to a pounding headache, nausea, aching bones and a fever. Hardly able to move, I spent the whole day sick in our dark, stuffy room. I ate nothing that day. The next day I felt even worse with serious nausea and weakness every time I moved. So I spent a second day in the room and managed a banana smoothie.By day 3 I was no better and managed half a plate of rice and a yoghurt. I simply couldn't eat. By the 4th day, I had a rash all over my neck and back and was convinced I had contracted dengue Fever, chicken Gunya or even worse, malaria. So we went up to the local hospital for a blood test. We were both impressed by the hospital in Chumphon. They were professional, didn't leave me waiting very long and the lovely Thai nurses were extremely caring. The blood tests thankfully came back negative and the doctor explained it must just be a bad viral infection. I was so relieved as I knew that if it had been Dengue or such like, I couldn't have carried on cycling.
We managed to escape the Farang bar and get a room at Suda's round the corner. It was a restful place and far more condusive to recuperation although with no internet or TV and me lying on the bed groaning all day it was pretty hard going for Ben. I was ill for another day and finally woke up on day 5 feeling better. The rash had gone and I was able to get up and walk around again. The problem though was that I had eaten next to nothing in almost a week and had lost a lot of weight. Consequently, my appetite was non-existent. I spent the next 3 days torturously trying to put food in my mouth and swallow. It was a horrible experience but I forced myself to eat the bare minimum knowing that if I didn't, I'd be on my way to anorexia in a few days. After a few days of this I started to get my appetite back and now I am eating normally again. Me, anorexic? That's a joke if ever I heard one. As you all know I can eat for Scotland but it just takes a few days of illness for your body to shut down. I am better now and putting weight back on.
We did a short, very leisurely ride up the coast to Bang Saphan. It was a beautiful stretch of coastline which we were able to appreciate at our average speed of 15 kms/h. I was weak as a kitten still. On our first night we camped on the beach outside a resort for free. The guys there even invited us to share a barbeque with them. The Pathiu beach resort is a great place to stay if you want total relaxation. It's a quiet, unspoilt bit of coastline.
|I fell off my bike twice that day due to fatigue|
When we got on the train, we were met by a scene of chaos. It was rammed with people, dogs, luggage and half-naked children. We squeezed onto a seat and smiled at our fellow passengers who clearly wondered why the hell we weren't in 1st class. For the next 8 hours we sat sweating and bolt upright on an uncomfortable bench facing another equally uncomfortable elderly couple. There was a constant stream of young girls cruising up and down the aisles selling food and drink. It was only 8 hours of discomfort and worth it to save our much-needed pennies. It was also a far more interesting experience than going to sleep in a cabin for 8 hours.
|Can you give just 2 pounds a month to help a man like this get back on his feet?|
In the wee hours of the morning we disembarked in Bangkok and cycled a short distance to our Warm Showers host. Bangkok street numbers make no sense a lot of the time and it took us a while to find the house. When we arrived at Jenny and Jay's we were pleasantly surprised. Despite being right in the midst of the Bangkok madness, their house was a quiet little haven tucked down an alley in the swanky area of Sukhumvit. Once inside the house, you'd never know you were in the middle of such a huge city. We were given a lovely room to ourselves, wi-fi, a key and told to make ourselves at home which we did with ease. The great thing about staying at Jenny and Jay's was their hands off approach. They did their thing and we did ours whilst still being made to feel very welcome. For that reason, it was one of the best Warm Showers stays we've had. Thanks for giving us the freedom to explore the city with no expectations from us.
|Jenny and Jay|
|Me working out in Lumphini Park - oh dear|
|We skyped Ben's grandparents whilst in Bangkok. Hello Gran and Cass!|
We got out to see a bit of the city visiting Lumpini Park, Chinatown and some temples. We also spent much of our time just sauntering around Sukhumvit, eating out and soaking up the atmosphere. Bangkok is by far the biggest city we've ever visited and crossing from one side to the other takes a few hours on public transport. As for cycling, it wasn't as bad as we'd imagined. The drivers here are used to scooters weaving around the traffic and we're not too different. In Bangkok the sole of my SPD's completely fell off. Time for some new shoes. Ben's were also being held together with gaffa tape so we got him a pair too. A huge thankyou to the Lady at Probike(http://www.probike.co.th/)who gave us a whopping 20% off our shoes and pedals. This is the best bike shop in Bangkok and you can find them at 237/2 Sarasin Rd, just beside Lumphini Park. Tel: 02 253 3384
|A very skinny Margo arrives in Bangkok|
We met up with another two cyclists, Nuno and Monica who were taking a similar route to us on a 3 month tour of S.E Asia. Note to self: don't arrange to meet people in Chinatown. It's an insane place where you're guaranteed to get lost. We hope to catch up with those guys in Cambodia. Unwittingly, these two accepted a super-cheap tuk-tuk ride. Thinking they had just got a good deal they set off to come and meet us. Before they knew it, the driver, on commision, had ushered them into a tailors and instead of getting driven to see us, Nuno found himself getting measured up for a suit he didn't want. Apparently angry beige is really his colour.
|Nuno and Monica|
In Bangkok we rediscovered the simple pleasure of travelling by bus. For around 14p you can jump on a bus and travel across the city. Easier said than done though as the public transport system takes a hell of a lot of getting used to. However once on board it's great for observing your fellow passengers and watching city life go by at a frantic pace from an open window. Bangkok is an amazing city and we only got to see a few small parts of it. It's fascinating, stressful, hugely multi-cultural and never stops.
Our last 2 nights in Bangkok were spent with Rene from Warm Showers. He lived in the On Nut area of the city which was on our way out of town. We spent only 2 days with him and his girlfriend but we left full of respect for this man. He is kind, hugely optimistic and full nof interesting tales to tell. Another one of life's great men. We got on so well together and it was great to speak French for a couple of days. We hope to see you in Belgium at the end of our trip.
|The lovely Rene|
|Ben builds up our new wheels at Rene's|
|We found some new born pups on the street|
We left Bangkok and cycled out of the city. It was an uninspiring ride to say least, until we saw this............
|This photo really doesn't do it justice, it was as tall as a 15 storey building|
Just the day before, we had at last got round to joining Couch Surfing. Couch Sufring is another amazing network bringing people together and encouraging generosity, co-operation and trust in your fellow man. The only difference between it and Warm Showers is that Warm Showers is specifically for cyclists. We checked on the site to see if anyone was available for hosting around the Chon Buri area and that night, after a 110 km ride, found ourselves at Matt and Lulu's.Our first CS experience couldn't have gone better. These two are a wonderful couple who at short notice, agreed to put us up for 2 nights. They were the perfect hosts and as we lay in bed that night in the spare room with the cool air from the fan hitting us, we couldn't believe our good fortune.Matt took us out to dinner then to a music bar in the small town of Phanat Nikkom where we enjoyed Thai whisky and coke and Matt's company. As well as Matt's comedy factor, he was also a fountain of information and gave us a better idea of where the Thais are coming from. It was he who pointed out the futility of trying to use gestures here and also explained that the Thais often use laughter to hide embarrassment. This helped us feel a bit better about the constant tittering.Our Thai adventure started off with a couple of bad experiences which left us feeling a bit negative about the country. However, as we travelled further North we started to see the honesty and genuine friendliness of Thai people.
|Matt sporting thundercats t-shirt|
We left Matt's and cycled East towards the Cambodian border and for the first time in ages, despite having a detailed map in front of us, we got completely and utterly lost! It would have been far less amusing cycling through dirt roads in the back of beyond with only a compass to guide us had we been in a hurry. However, we had plenty time on our hands and saw the funny side of it.
Then for the first time, the thing we had been dreading which we knew we we'd come across sooner or later. I saw the dog in the middle of the road from a distance and could see he was still moving. I knew straight away he'd been hit. We approached him and assessed the damage. He was in a bad state with a seeping wound on his backside and testicles. We got out our tarpaulin and gently lifted him onto it. As we picked him up, it was clear his back and both back legs were broken. We put him in the shade and tried to comfort him. He was severly dehydrated and sadly we made the mistake of giving him water. This only served to revive him a little and prolong his agony. He would have died quicker without our intervention. We stayed with him for a while and asked a couple in a nearby house to come and look at him. We guess they said they could do nothing to help him and left. We stayed with him for a while to try and keep the ants from biting his wound. We didn't want him to die alone and prayed he would slip away soon. The water was a huge mistake especially as neither of us took the decision to put him out of his misery. He was still alive when we left him and before we cycled off he looked into our eyes as if it to say, “Oh, you're leaving”. This incident crushed us both. We didn't do the right thing by him and the look in his eyes as we left him will stay with us for a long time.
The previous night we ate our dinner in a roadside eatery. We had decided that we had become far too soft staying in hotels every night and, despite the heat, asked if we could put the tent up. The ladies here were wonderful and we spent the night watching a magnificent thunder storm. The tent was like a sweat lodge again but we were happy to have spent a night back in it. After eating breakfast, the ladies topped up our water bottles and sent us on our way with a huge bunch of bananas. We did a short day the next day due to spending almost 3 hours in a roadside shelter hiding from the torrential rain and after 50 kms stopped for some lunch in Tha Takiap.
|Back in the tent again|
|Happy now Craig|
|Yong and Lerm|
|People like this make the world a happy place|
We then cycled to Khlong Hat on a road where several people had warned us about rogue elephants. As we cycled along we saw that elephants were indeed nearby by the number of giant dumps on the road. We could also see where they had been making their way from the dense forest out into the road with branches scattered all over and trees uprooted. We made our way through the National park though without seeing them which is probably for the best. We arrived in Khlong Hat and booked into a "resort' in the middle of nowhere where we were the only guests. The people running the show just wanted our cash and weren't very nice.
|Armed soldiers line the road that runs along the Cambodian border to check vehicles for illegal immigrants. Despite the machine guns they were all lovely guys!|